Temple of Confucius

To start our November on a high note, we visited Beijing’s Temple of Confucius on an aptly crisp, autumn afternoon.  The Temple of Confucius is a local where people paid homage to the great thinker educator during the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644), and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. It also served as a testing site for the imperial examination held prior to the end of the Qing Dynasty. The temple was built in 1302 and additions were made during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This temple in Beijing is the second largest temple in China constructed for Confucius.  Architecturally speaking, the temple consists of four courtyards each with similarly beautiful and exquisite carvings of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. The blue skies, yellow leaves, and blue birds of autumn accentuated the picturesque scene as we traversed the temple. What a beautiful place kept well preserved for hundreds of years. The dense history of the Temple of Confucius was palpable when approaching row upon row of 198 stone tablets each engraved with hundreds of names of Jinshi – the advanced scholars of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties.  Exactly 51,624 names are showcased to this day, honoring the men who studied the ways of Confucius and achieved this high honor.

Watch Out! It’s the “Touch Evil Cypress.” – The Temple of Confucius 2018

Not far from these tablets stands a gnarled, ancient evergreen called the “Touch Evil Cypress.” It was explained by our tour guide  that the name of this 700 year old “Chujian Bai” is associated with an ancient legend: during the Ming Dynasty, an official by the name of Yan Song came to worship the cypress the when one the branches of the tree fell and almost crushed him. Since Yan Song was known to be corrupt, the tree seemed to know his fate. People came to believe that the ancient cypress could distinguish between those who are good and those who are evil; hence the name, “Touch Evil Cypress.”

To end our time at the Temple of Confucius, we had the opportunity to witness a dance performance inspired by the students of Confucius. Young men and women dressed in clothing of the Qing Dynasty danced to music of the time. Although the movements were simple, the uniform grace and style, not to mention the majesty of the dancer’s red and blue attire, made the five-minute performance quite a spectacle. As a modern dancer on campus, I have to say that I received some inspiration from the performance. It is clear that Confucius continues to teach and inspire to this day, even through the art of dance.

Zhongdian / Shangri-La

After visiting Tiger Leaping Gorge, we traveled to Zhongdian – better known as Shangri-La since 2002. Thanks to the guidance of our amazing Tibetan tour guide, we were able to indulge in delicious Tibetan cuisine, take part in local dances and explore the old town of Zhongdian all at an altitude of 10,000 feet!

When first arriving in Zhongdian, this high altitude was most apparent. It seemed the sky and the horizon were in much closer proximity than in the Shanghai or Kunming skyline; Pine trees of deep green and lush mountain tops lined the blue sky in stark contrast. But with the air so thin, at our arrival, many of us preferred the relaxing scenery of our hotel rooms than the outdoors. Prior resting after our long bus ride to Zhongdian, we were greeted in the lobby of the Le Fu Ge Dan Hotel with steaming cups of sweet ginger tea. “It tastes like Christmas!” one of us exclaims, inspiring us to start playing holiday spirited music while waiting for our room keys.

At last, settled in our respective rooms, we collectively sighed. Having been so busy the last week with back to back travel plans, it felt wonderful to rest, even if just for an hour or two. As the sun began to dip below the ever-closer horizon, we prepared ourselves for dinner at a local Tibetan restaurant. A feast including yak’s milk tea, potato pancakes, and yak

Blue skies in Zhongdian – Fall 2018

meat dumplings, everything tasted so foreign yet so delicious! Our meal gave us the energy to traverse Zhongdian’s old town, a winding maze of shops and cafes, restaurants and hotels while at the center of it all, a swirling mass of people dancing under the darkened sky.

 

Similar to the local dancing we encountered in Liming, this dancing circle was just as vibrant, just as inviting, and just as difficult to follow! The accompanying music rippled through the crowd, guiding them through a leg crossing, arm waving, graceful choreography that everyone seemed to know except the scattering of foreigners. It seemed we were just as satisfied stepping back to watch the swirling patterns of traditional dress, smiling faces, and stars in the                                                                                               Zhongdian sky.

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